Sitting for an examination is hard and stressful. But sitting for it while in labour, with serious contractions rolling through your body makes an examination almost impossible.
But AGNES NANTABA beat all odds when she turned up for her last university examination, several hours into labour. She shared her story with Prisca Baike.
Friday December 15, 8:30am found Agnes Nantaba at an examination venue in Makerere University, waiting to conclude her semester exams. One thing set her apart from her fellow graduate students: she was in advanced stages of labour.
The class president and her lecturer were aware of her condition and were both worried; possibly thinking she would yell and grunt throughout, but basing on her strength and positive attitude, they let her in.
Nantaba’s is a story of bravery, commitment and faith. Listening to her narrate her story last week as she soothed her sleeping newborn baby girl in Gayaza, I could not help but laud her. According to her ultrasound scan, Nantaba’s due date was December 14 this year, which was clearly examination time, but this did not deter her from her academic goals.
She enrolled for a master’s degree in Communication knowing well she was pregnant and would possibly give birth during her exams. Besides a demanding journalism job at The Independent magazine, she is a family woman and mother to an 18-month-old toddler, Malcolm.
Her family and career aside, she decided to enroll for a Communication master’s program, which required her to attend daily evening classes, do the demanding courseworks and extensive research. Hard as all these seem, her major worry was having to miss exams after all the effort.
Which is why, even when baby Melanie decided she was coming out after Nantaba had done three of her papers with one to go, mummy had the last word. And wait, little Melanie did, although she started her process a little earlier, making sure that mama paid well for the choice she made.
The first contraction came as Nantaba read for her last exam of the semester at midnight. When the contractions persisted, coming at 30-minute intervals, she knew this was an onset of labour.
“I can’t say that I read again after that. I was only thinking about how I was going to miss my exam,” Nantaba told The Observer at her home.
By 5:30am, the contractions had started coming at 20-minute intervals. She called her obstetrician, Dr John Bosco Tezita, a specialist at Mulago hospital.
“He told me it was risky,” Nantaba said. “He asked me if we could risk.”
She took the risk, placing her sister on stand-by outside the lecture room as advised by the doctor. He also advised her not to stress too much during the examination and start with the questions she knew well, so that in case of any emergency, she would get some good marks.
Nantaba had known her condition way before she applied and she had been advised by her friend, Harriet Sebaana, an undergraduate journalism lecturer at Makerere University, to start her course unit early.
Her doubts were further cleared when another lecturer, Dr Aisha Nakiwala Sembatya, shared her story during the master’s students’ orientation.
“She said she had two of her children while on the master’s program yet she graduated on time and even went ahead to do her PhD,” she said. Nantaba could do it too.
“Although the paper was for three hours, I planned to write it in two and go to hospital. I ended up using two and a half hours,” Nantaba recalled.
As fellow laboring mothers wailed and pulled at their hair in hospitals around the world, Nantaba was stoically writing an exam, weathering the contractions as they came. She submitted her script ahead of the rest and waddled out of the exam room in excruciating pain. She drove herself to Kawempe hospital’s private wing, where she was confirmed to be in advanced labour.
Five hours later, at 5pm, baby Melanie, weighing in at 3.5kg, was born.
One of her lecturers posted this on the class WhatsApp group: “Congrats to her and welcome to baby girl who survived being named one of the exam papers. May she grow to be a professor and give exams.”
“I still can’t believe I am a mother of these two lovely children,” said Nantaba, who had gone through almost two painful childless years after her traditional marriage ceremony.
Her days of crying upon the sight of her menstrual period are now a distant memory as she gets to enjoy the joy of motherhood in quite adventurous ways.
Nantaba maintains that with faith in God, hope and commitment, anything is possible.